Thursday, 25 April 2013
The Never Ending Story
What is this about? The Never Ending Story?
Well, this is a film that I re-watched with our middle son, Victor Rikowski, over the Easter period (at Victor's suggeestion). This is one of Victor's favourite films, and indeed, it is one of my favourites too. Victor was given this by his Auntie Julie, when he was quite young (about 8 years old). But even more surprising is the fact that Glenn took Alexander to see it in the cinema in Cromer, Norfolk when he was only about 6 years old. At the time, they thought it was a bit strange. Victor, Gregory and I watched it later on (when we got the video from Aunt Julie), and we all really liked it. Well, Victor and I really loved it, in fact! And now, we have just re-watched it.
So, what is this film about? And what is so special about it? Well, it is about the land of Fantasia. And this land is only kept alive by children's imagination. But the land is dying, the people are dying, the different species are dying; the emptiness is threatening the world of imagination, and the 'Nothing' is taking over. This is because children's imagination is dying. They are being turned into consumers at ever younger ages, of course. This was not stated explicitly, but the message is there implicitly.
The film opens with a young boy, Bastian, being bullied. He escapes by going into a book shop. The man running the bookshop is reading a book, but tells him that it is not for the boy; that it is no ordinary book. That, of course, is 'The Never Ending Story'. The boy runs off with the book. He gets very absorbed in it; he seems to become part of it. How easily I could relate to that! Getting away from bullies, and into a book instead!
Meanwhile, in the story we have the boy child, Atreyu (the other side of Bastian) that is on a mission to save Fantasia; a young Artistic Warrior one could say.
I thought of Nietzsche and his ideas around the übermensch, the overman, the superman and all that. Yes, I have suddenly started pouring myself into the ideas of Frederick Nietzsche and I am really fascinated by it all! I got it wrong; I have been unfair on him. But then again, it is all so complex. Whilst now, Victor has turned right away from him. Oh well - such is life! These great geniuses and thinkers move and shake us in all sorts of ways. But they are where it is at - that is the most important thing to remember, in my view. The great books, the great thinkers, the great writers, the great artists: those people that want to transcend and indeed, are often driven to transcend, every day reality.
Such people take us on to another plane; they take us on to another level; another way of thinking, being and existing. And I am part of that. I have always been a part of that. But I have not had many of the advantages that many of the greats have had, so I am not being taken as seriously. Nietzsche had a very tough life in many ways and he was, indeed, very courageous, and he broke through so many boundaries and said just so much that others would not dare to say. Well, never dare to think, let alone say and write. But he did have the advantage of being a Professor at a young age, which gave him a head start, in terms of confidence and getting taken seriously (D. H. Lawrence was the same here). But anyway, we all find our own way and I am finding mine. But I do also think that women have to be more careful and cover themselves more (and those from less privileged backgrounds even more so). If a woman wrote as Nietzsche did she would almost certainly be accused of being head-strong, prejudicial, irrational etc. etc. And a woman is also more vulnerable to such attacks, because at the end of the day, most women are physically weaker than men. But anyway, we all find our own way, which is what Nietzsche wanted. And so, as I say, I am finding my own way.
Coming back to the Overman, this is what Nimrod Aloni says in his great book 'Beyond Nihilism' about Nietzsche's overman:
"...the overman stands as the materialisation of the theme that the primary element through which life grows in value or attains power is neither knowledge nor morality, but the creative form-giving, value-assigning, meaning-introducing human enterprise. In other words, in the doctrine of the overman Nietzsche associates the enhancement of life, the elevation of man, and man's metaphysical destiny with a self-determining creative process that is dominated by the will to power, manifested in the introduction of ever-new forms of patterning experience, and continually aiming to surpass and perfect its prevailing state of being." (Aloni, 1991, p. 176)
So, we have the creative outlet driven forward by the 'will to power'.
Then, a little later, and very near the end of the book, Aloni says:
"Nietzsche places the highest value on continual self-overcoming through the spiritualization and creative employment of the passions, identifying man's highest form of self-affirmation with 'the power of creating beyond oneself ' without losing oneself." (Aloni, 1991, p. 185)
Thus, self-overcoming; taking hold of one's life; 'going for life' etc.
Also, the 'Nothing', from an adult perspective, can be associated with Nietzsche. A nihilist state (which could be equated with 'the nothing') that Nietzsche thought had to be reached and recognised in order to then overcome it and move beyond it. Reject Christian morality, reject conformist value systems, all of which leads to sickness in humankind: 'God is dead' (Nietzsche). And so we then have a state of nihilism. Then, the overman can create a new set of values, 'a revaluation of the previous values' (Nietzsche) and so the 'nothing' is overcome. This is one adult way in which 'The Never Ending Story' could be developed and built on.
Children, on their own, cannot overcome nihilism. The fear is that if it was all just left to children, then barbarism might well take a hold and take over instead (e.g. Golding's 'Lord of the Flies'). It is all too dangerous, and too much left to chance. So, we need to find another way; an adult way but one that is inspiring, fulfilling, creative (and not where the adult lives in an alienated and sick state). But this would build on the power and beauty of children's imagination; of taking adults when they were imaginative children and building on this. Able, gifted and fortunate children that are able to develop creatively and imaginatively.
But Atreyu, as a child is using the force of his personality, his strong beliefs, his courage and his bravery to try to find the Empress and to call forth Bastian in order to defeat 'the nothing' and to save Fantasia. And of course, in a story it is possible; well anything is possible in stories and in one's imagination. Also, these are very courageous and different young people of course (or the same person, but we won't go into that one here). And if stories and fiction writing in general can help to enrich our real lives, and be real lights to us in the process about how to live more fulfilling lives, so much the better. But we need more than that; we need to put it into an adult context.
And then we have these incredibly wise words from Karl Löwith, in his good book Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same. He says:
"The teaching of the eternal recurrence repeats The Birth of Tragedy and makes possible the 'revaluation of all values' that follows, because this teaching pertains in its principle not to just any single value but to the now problematic 'value of existence' as such and as a whole: the reversal of the will to the nothing of nihilism, into the willing of the Being of the eternal recurrence of the same." (Löwith, 1997, p. 26)
Yes, a 'revaluation of all values', to overcome nihilism; to overcome 'the nothing'.
"To Hegel the death of God is the abyss of the nothing into which all Being sinks, in order to emerge anew in the movement of becoming." (Löwith, 1997, p. 39)
Yes, becoming and:
"A superhuman will of the man of the future, a will that creates itself and the world as its own, takes the place of God, who creates Being out of nothing." (Löwith, 1997, p.43)
And so again, we have Nietzsche's notion of the 'will to power'.
In general, I wasn't understanding Nietzsche before - well I never studied him formally. And I had got caught up in the hype with the right-wing and fascist propaganda, his many 'anti-women' remarks, the madness, the post-modernists taking him up (seen to be their godfather) and much else besides.
But Glenn and Victor's persistence and enthusiasm with Nietzsche over many years made me think that there must be something important in it all and that I should really try to get to grips with some of it. Also, then, there is my own personal love of D. H. Lawrence who was heavily influenced by Nietzsche of course. And so, this is what I have been turning my attention to of late. And in some strange way, things seem to be fitting together. And I now realise what a genius Nietzsche was.
But how could a child achieve so much? How could any child, on his/her own, save Fantasia? Well, you could argue that, of course, she/he could simply because she/he is a child, and it is a childlike world that he/she is trying to save - the world of children's imagination. So, if children have a strong enough and powerful enough imagination (which Bastian clearly did) then Fantasia can be saved. But one can take this a step further; and indeed, I think it should be taken further. That society, in many ways, tries to force us to be in the supposed 'real world'. Working and functioning in capitalism; being both producers and consumers. And only using our imagination where it fits in with capitalism; such as going to the movies, and spending money, but not getting too sucked into it all, as we need to go out and labour in capitalism again. But this is not good for us. We need our imagination; we need our fantasies; we have to escape from the real world; we have to get beyond day-to-day reality in many ways. And so we do. And so the contradictions continue.
But can all this be really achieved by a child? Well, clearly not. And that perhaps is where the confusion comes in. Perhaps, Victor thought that, in some way, he could achieve it. That would make sense, with his enthusiasm for Nietzsche. That as a child; then as a teenager; then as a young adult, he could have some big impact on the world creatively and artistically. Well, one can in various ways of course, but it is very hit and miss and it is very difficult to make a real and lasting impact. It is still something worth striving for though, as it makes life worth living. Also, it means that one is sharing one's gifts, one's work, one's creative output, one's ideas etc. with others, and thus hopefully helping to enrich the world in general in some way. Or at least, that is a good aim, I think.
And that is one way where we can go wrong with the geniuses; with the greats. We can expect too much from them. They are only human, when all is said and done. We should appreciate the fact that they give so much to the world. And so with Nietzsche - his work 'blows one's mind' and can, on one level, seem contradictory - or far worse of course. But we should appreciate the fact that he was trying to find a different way to live, and challenging conventional wisdoms. To such an extent that in the end he went, mad of course. Well, enough said on that one, for now. We also need to bear in mind that life is quite short, so any one person, any one genius, can only ever do so much. Nietzsche can't sort everything out; Marx can't sort everything out; D. H. Lawrence can't sort everything out. And on top of all of that, they had so many prejudices against them, as applies to so many great thinkers, movers and shakers.
So, coming back to Victor, he decided that it was all dangerous nonsense (after reading Geoff Waite's book Nietzsche's Corpse); and currently he has no time much for the notion of the 'Artistic Warrior' or Nietszchien-type stuff in general. Oh well! I was certainly very much against Nietzsche at one time, so who am I to talk? And I still can't really read much of Nietzsche's raw text, it has to be said, (so am reading some good books by others interpreting his work), but hopefully in time, with the help of this reading, I will be able to read more of the raw text, and continue to make more sense of it all. Having said that though, I also now realise that Nietzsche did not really intend for his books to just be read from cover to cover. He was just such a very different thinker and writer - it is often more appropriate to 'dip into them'.
I realise now though that Nietzsche's philosophy was about a way of life, and not confined to reasoning (and that is very important). As Alistair Kee says:
"...he [Nietzsche] set himself to develop not a system of philosophy, but a philosophy by which to live." (Kerr, 1999, p. 20)
And for me, that is also the essence of philosophy; although thinking rationally is also vitally important in capitalism. Because the capitalist system is just so mad, one has to use one's reason in order to be able to function in it. But people are going to be very disappointed if they think that by such sensible behaviour they will then be living in a sane and rational system! No way!
But coming back to 'The Never Ending Story' - well, I think we need a 2nd good film, showing how an adult artistic warrior can take all this forward. That is my conclusion. And, of course, that also fits in with Nietzsche (overcoming nihilism). Now, there is the film 'The Never Ending Story II: the next chapter' (this is on the same video actually). But it just isn't very good at all. It just does not capture one's imagination (strangely enough!), is not very gripping, and has too many adults in it (but not doing very worthwhile and interesting things either).
Suddenly, I wanted to find out more. Surely such a great film, must be based on a book? So, I did a search on Amazon, and - hey presto, I was right. It is based on a book by the famous children's fiction author, Michael Ende. Amazing! But I should have guessed that before! So, I had to find out more. I found out that the 2nd film was not really based on the book - so that explains that one! Some were saying that it should be a classic, and I quite agree. I then went into my local Waterstones bookshop, found it on the shelf (great!) and bought it. I will read it soon. Then, I read a really interesting review of the film by Kylopod on Amazon (see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088323/reviews) They say:
"No fantasy film I've seen has tapped more successfully into the kinds of philosophical thoughts that kids have...This is the type of film that greatly appeals to introspective kids who think about things like infinity and the end of the universe. Do children think about such things? I did. People who find that surprising have forgotten how profound children can sometimes be."
I did too! That is really profound, I think. But a little later the person has this to say:
"Bastian never grows as a character, he never learns to put his feet on the ground, something the early scenes suggest will happen."
And this is, indeed, the problem, I think, and why it could confuse and mislead intelligent children in particular, and why a second, good film is needed to try to address the problem.
I also think they were right about some of the characters that the director, Wolfgang Petersen created in the film, and that he did not seem to have a clear enough idea about what age group he was filming for. As Kylopod says::
"Some of the scenes are quite scary and violent, making this film inappropriate for younger children. Yet, the muppet-like characters are presented in an annoyingly condescending way that I doubt older kids (not to mention teens and adults) would appreciate."
And I think this was what Glenn didn't like.
I checked further and found that a 3rd film has been made - 'The Never Ending Story 3' - but that is even worse that the 2nd one apparently, and actually features in the 'Badmovies.org' website, would you believe. What a tragedy. All getting worse, rather than better. Dear oh dear!
So, anyway, instead, a completely different kind of sequel is needed. This should be where an adult artistic warrior takes it all forward. This could be done in various ways by the adult; such as through sophisticated fiction writing, through art, through philosophical writing, through music etc. Indeed, perhaps more people writing like Nietzsche. And people writing and/or living in real and genuine ways; where they really try to become themselves; be true to themselves (and not get taken in by the propaganda etc); to 'go for life'; to be real; to be genuine. And this of course, was what D. H. Lawrence also very much took up (being inspired by Nietzsche and all that) - 'going for life', aiming to be a whole person, taking risks etc. He wrote a letter to his friend Catherine Carswell, for example, congratulating her on her marriage, saying that:
"I only want to know people that have the courage to live."
That about sums it up.
Then, at the end of his book Apocalypse (which he wrote just before he died), he said:
"What man most passionately wants is his living wholeness and his living unison, not his own isolate salvation of his 'soul'...What we want is to destroy our false, inorganic connections, especially those related to money, and re-establish the living organic connections with the cosmos, the sun and earth, with mankind and nation and family." (Lawrence, 1974, pp 125-6)
So, this childhood, innocent wonderment could be taken into adulthood and in that way, it can drive it all forward (as D. H. Lawrence did with his novels of course), and help adults to live a better life; one where consumerism does not dominate. Lead by example, and all that. Use one's adult brain, but use it wisely.
To just leave it with the child being the saviour, is rather dangerous on one level and can give people (especially children) false hopes, I think. Children thinking that they can change the world by adopting childlike ways of behaving, with their vivid imagination and that, in this way, they can do better than adults. And giving themselves too much self-importance.
But of course, this cannot be done, because capitalism is just too powerful. Take Michael Jackson here as an example. Michael Jackson trying to remain childlike, living in Neverland and wanting to be Peter Pan. But of course, it was not possible, and the cruel, capitalist, greedy society basically 'got to him' and killed him. And Thatcher as good as defeated the unions and old Labour, and much else besides, when all is said and done and crippled and debilitated the working class. How much easier it would be, and is, for the 'right' to defeat children and childlike mentalities. They don't really have a leg to stand on!
But I want to find ways forward, in general and indeed, that is what I intend to do! A way to overcome; a way to take control of one's life; a way to live a fulfilled life; a way to live life in a beautiful, creative and meaningful way, but where fantasy and escapism (which ideally should first be developed in childhood) also has its important part to play and can shine through. Yes, even guide us forward. And that is where Nietzsche's Eternal Return of the Same comes in, but that can be for another time and another day.
N.B. In my blog entry 'Fiction Write-Ups' I make clear that I am moving away from the type of
fiction write-ups that I have previously entered on this blog. This entry builds on this (and is no deviation):
1. It is about a film, not a book
2. Only parts of the plot are revealed
3. It deals with some important philosophical issues, which not many of my other fiction write-ups have dealt with; 'The Age of Reason' by Sartre being one big obvious exception here. Also, Sartre's 'Nausea' and Douglas Kennedy's 'The Moment'.
4. It provides an introduction into my newly discovered understanding, thoughts and insights into Nietzsche.
Link to film: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Neverending-Story-Thomas-Hill/dp/B0017U09JE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366886677&sr=8-1&keywords=never+ending+story+film
Link to book: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Neverending-Story-Puffin-Books/dp/0140317937/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1366886677&sr=8-2&keywords=never+ending+story+film
Aloni, Nimrod (1991) Beyond Nihilism: Nietzsche's healing and edifying Philosophy, University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland
Kee, Alistair (1999) Nietzsche agaist the crucified, SCM Press, London
Lawrence, D. H. (1974) Apocalypse, Penguin, Middlesex (first published in 1931)
Löwith, Karl (1997) Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Eternal Recurrence of the Same, University of California Press, London
Waite, Geoff (1996) Nietzsche's Corpse, Duke University Press, USA